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Desert Advance and Deforestation in Iran

Desert areas in Iran are expanding by the rate of 300 meters per second

Hamshahri (Daily)
Monday 20 Feb. 1995
Vol. III, No. 628.

Plant coverage in Iran in the form of forests and pastures is about 102 million hectares. From that, 12.4 million hectares is forests and the remaining 900 million hectares is pastures. In 1963, the forest areas were 18 million hectares, i.e. 11 percent of total area of the country. At present, the Iranian forests have been reduced to 12.4 million hectares. The area of forests in northern Iran has been reduced from 3.4 million hectares in 1962 to 1.8 million hectares in 1977 and recently to about one million hectares or perhaps less .

On the other hand, a German geographer estimated the area of Iranian forests 2000 years ago to have been about 80 million hectares. The western Zagros forests is about 5 million hectares. The area of other forests is as follows:

b) Lores, 1.1 million hectares.
c) Desert forests 0.5 million hectares.
d) Marshland (Persian Gulf), 1.5 million hectares.

World per capita share of forests is about 1.1 hectare. That figure in Iran is less than 0.5 hectare. Among 56 countries with forests worldwide, Iran ranks 45th. In other words, that indicates the prevalence of desert and semi-desert conditions in Iran. Only a limited area (27.6%) of this vast land is covered with forests. Two significant factors could explain this:

1. The natural limiting factor that arises from Iran's location on the earth.

2. The human factor that adds to this limitation by conscious or unconscious actions.

The figures concerning the destruction of forests in northern Iran would be more clearly understood if we hear that every second 300 square meters are added to the area of Iranian deserts. On the other hand, annually, an area equal to 310,000 hectares of forests are destroyed. Certain effects of forest destruction are:

a) Soil erosion: The destruction of soil comes with other massive losses including the washing away of numerous layers of soil, filling lakes and dams with sedimentation, destruction of buildings and installations located on flood paths.

Regarding soil destruction, statisticians say up to 57 million hectares of soil has been eroded only in 1984- 85.

b) Flooding: Fifteen years ago, In the northern parts of Iran, no flooding occurred even if it rained for four days. Now, 30-40 hours of rain would cause a flood owing to forest destruction. The damages caused by the Zabol flood in 1990 are estimated at around four trillion rials.

c) Water cycle: Disrupting the water cycle which causes famine because of a drop in the volume of water in subterranean water canals, wells, springs and rivers.

Reforestation activities

Forest restoration in Iran is very slow. Less than 20,000 hectares of forests are planted per year. On the other hand, reforestation is more extensive in countries which are greener than our semi-dry area. For instance, in Bulgaria 200,000 hectares, in North Korea 160,000 hectares and in Turkey 200,000 hectares per year are reforested. In China and Russia 10 million hectares of lands are reforested every year.